Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Haass talks: I object to term 'the past' as it sanitises actions of republican and loyalist terrorists

Former US Diplomat Dr Richard Haass in Belfast this morning Picture Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Former US Diplomat Dr Richard Haass in Belfast this morning Picture Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

TUV isn't involved in the Haass talks and therefore I am limited to media reports as to what is going on. Unsurprisingly, it already seems obvious that the executive parties have failed to reach agreement on the issue of flags which leaves "the past" and parades on the table.

The most important of those issues is that which the executive parties have chosen to describe as "the past". I object to the term because it is terrorist friendly. It sanitises the actions of republican and loyalist terrorists and ignores the reality that victims of the Troubles still suffer from the injures inflicted upon them by criminals.

It's not part of their past. It's very much part of their lives in the here and now. It also ignores the reality that justice is not something they demanded years ago but something they continue to demand today.

At the TUV conference last month we had a victims' panel which addressed delegates. Julie Hambleton, who lost her 18 year old sister Maxine in the IRA's 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, told of how she continues to campaign for those responsible for the deaths of 21 innocent civilians to be brought to justice.

Volunteers were out in England collecting signatures on a petition calling for the investigation to be reopened last Saturday.

When another member of the panel, was Serena Hamilton. Her father (an off duty UDR man) was shot in the back by the IRA. When asked what the top three things which victims needed were she replied that there was only one demand - justice.

"Limited immunity" didn't feature. Hardly surprising as victim makers like Gerry Kelly weren't involved in the panel.

If the parties genuinely did want to put the interests of victims first justice and the perverse definition of victim, which draws no distinction between the innocent and the terrorist blown up by his own bomb, would have been the issues discussed.

That's the yardstick whereby I will judge this process when it comes to "the past". I doubt if it will measure up.

 

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